Rob Manfred was asked about automated strike zones again

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As has become ritual whenever commissioner Rob Manfred talks to the press, someone asked him about robot umps and automated strike zones. Such a thing is almost always, arguably anyway, in the news because there is almost always someone, somewhere arguing that balls and strikes should be called by technology rather than fallible human beings. Joe Maddon went on a tirade about it just the other day.

Here’s Manfred on it now (Via CBS and Via Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com):

“It would be a pretty fundamental change in the game to take away a function that has been performed by our umpiring staff, really with phenomenal accuracy. The fact of the matter is they get them right well over 90 percent of the time.

“And there is a human aspect to that, a work aspect to it that’s always been an important part of our game. I don’t think you can just jump to the conclusion that if you have (the) technology to do it that’s the right thing for your product.”

Our view on this remains the same as it has been for a while now. In theory: sure, automated strike zones are cool because who doesn’t want the right calls. In practice, however, it’d probably be a disaster, at least for the short term, because the technology simply isn’t good enough yet. There are calibration issues and inaccuracies, as there are with any sort of technology which seeks to measure very difficult things with precision. Experts in the field believe that, at present, the success rate on ball/strike calls would probably be about the same with an automated system now as it is with human umpires. Big, obviously bad calls from someone like Angel Hernandez might be avoided, but borderline calls would be more dicey, in all likelihood.

I suspect MLB’s internal assessments track these external ones, which is probably why Manfred has always been tepid about this stuff. If it was better, MLB would probably back automated umpiring a lot more than it does.

UPDATE: Some further food for thought regarding the accuracy of humans:

 

 

Dodgers, Tony Gonsolin agree to 2-year, $6.65M contract

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — All-Star pitcher Tony Gonsolin and the Los Angeles Dodgers agreed on a two-year, $6.65 million contract that avoided an arbitration hearing.

Gonsolin gets $3.25 million this year and $3.4 million in 2024.

His salary in the second season can escalate by up to $3 million based on a points system in which he will be credited one point for each start, or each relief appearance of 3 1/3 innings: $500,000 apiece for 14, 16, 18, 20, 24 and 28 points. The 2024 salary also would increase by $1,125,000 for winning a Cy Young Award this year, $625,000 for finishing second or third in the voting and $500,000 for finishing fourth or fifth.

The sides exchanged salary proposals on Jan. 13, with Gonsolin seeking a raise from $720,000 last season to $3.4 million this year, while the Dodgers offered $3 million.

The 28-year-old right-hander was 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 24 starts during a breakout season last year. Gonsolin earned his first All-Star selection with an 11-0 record and a 2.02 ERA in the first half. He finished with the highest winning percentage (.941) in franchise history.

Gonsolin has been with the Dodgers for parts of four seasons since being drafted in the ninth round out of Saint Mary’s College in 2016. He is 26-6 with a 2.51 ERA in 59 career games.

He helped the Dodgers win the 2020 World Series during the pandemic-shortened season.